January is National Radon Awareness month. Radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, only behind tobacco smoke. It is responsible for a reported 21,000 deaths per year in the United States. Radon is a radioactive gas that forms when naturally-occurring uranium in granite bedrock decays into radium. This radium then decays to radon, a colorless, odorless gas. Radon is not harmful outside, but it can build up to damaging levels inside a house.
All of North Georgia, especially the upper third of the state, is considered to be at a moderate to high radon risk. Radon enters homes through cracks and crevices in your foundation. The air pressure inside your home acts as a vacuum, helping to pull radon up from the soil beneath.
How do you know if you have high radon levels in your house? Radon levels can vary from house to house. The only way to know whether or not you are being exposed to high radon levels is to get a test kit.
UGA Cooperative Extension offers radon test kits for $10 per kit. The test kits are very simple to use. They contain a charcoal sponge which will soak up any radon in your home. All you have to do is hang the test kit from a string in the basement or first floor of your home for 3-7 days. You then send back the pre-paid envelope to the UGA Radon lab. Your results will be mailed back to you a short time later.
Radon test kits can be ordered online by filling out the order form found at www.ugaradon.org, or by calling (706) 583-0602. The website also has an instructional video on how to properly use the radon test kit.
If your house does have elevated levels of radon above EPA-acceptable levels, a UGA radon educator will contact you about remediation steps. There are several certified radon remediation specialists in Georgia who can install ventilation systems in your home to help the radon gas escape safely outside of your home.
Just as with tobacco smoke, not everyone exposed to radon will develop lung cancer. However, if you are concerned or would just like some peace of mind, radon test kits are an easy solution.
For more information on radon and radon test kits, contact our region's designated UGA radon educator, Gabrielle Walters, at (706) 583-0602 or firstname.lastname@example.org.